It Was Research–I Swear!


  Vodka party2

Because my next book involves plants and booze, I am required to spend a lot of money at liquor stores buying unusual spirits.  It's terrible, I know, but this is the sort of grueling research writers must put themselves through.  My husband is no help:  as a rare book dealer, he has that obsessive collector's mentality that makes him want to acquire one of everything so as to have a complete collection. 

So once he realized that we had vodka made of rye, wheat, barley, corn, and potato (Polish and Idaho), we had to get more!  What else is vodka made out of, he asked.  Grapes, as it turns out.  And apples.  And honey, and maple syrup, and milk.  Yes, milk!

So then we had to have a party.  We told people they could come and taste each vodka individually, or, if that was a bit too intense, we promised a few nice cocktails as well. 

Here's the complete lineup–with an example of the plant (or–uh–dairy product) each vodka is derived from:

Vodka party

As an afterthought, we also put out a few flavored vodkas we had hanging around.  Much to our surprise, one of those turned out to be everyone's favorite.  The winner?

Tomato vodka

Crop Vodka's organic tomato vodka.  People LOVED this stuff.  Now, it's distilled from grains and flavored with tomato, so it's not as if this is a pure tomato-distilled vodka.  And the tomato flavor is not overwhelming.  But it's surprisingly good on its own–people described it as smooth, and round, and soft–and you can definitely see how good it would be in any kind of tomato cocktail.  (and in case you're imagining a thick, awful Bloody Mary-type thing, imagine instead that you simply muddle a very overripe, perfect tomato in a cocktail shaker, along with some vodka and perhaps a little basil, then shake and strain. Mmmmmm.)

Oh, and here's the cocktail we served — a very good variation on a Cosmopolitan:

2 parts Square One Cucumber Vodka (flavored only with real cukes, btw)

1 part Curacao or Triple Sec

2 parts pomegranate juice

.5 part lime juice

Shake with ice, pour.  Cheers!



  1. Very interesting, I usually stick to buying the only organic kind I can find locally (sometimes rural life stinks) – but since I’m not a big drinker I’m usually using it to make something else – limoncello, vanilla, cordials, etc. Next time I get to the big city I’ll have to hit a liquor store to see what I can find!

  2. This is a hoot !
    I’m looking forward to this book and forwarded this post to a new friend and client who I am working on to install a culinary garden that will supply the ‘bar’ with fresh ingredients for his bar drinks. It’s been fun doing research for the various cocktail ingredients that he has requested. Who knew that there was a sloe berry bush that produced the berries that went into a sloe gin fizz ?
    I wish this book was already out ! What a great resource !

  3. Woo, research!

    On the subject of gardening and liquor, let me add–basil simple syrup. It’s fantastic stuff, even if you’re not into the basil julep.

  4. A vodka tasting party–like wine tasting?! I’m never sure which vodka I want in my martini, so I think this sounds like a fine way to decide!

    Does this mean Garden Rant Cocktail Hour will be returning?

    Can’t wait to read it…

    On another note–I’m looking forward to Cal Expo this weekend.

  5. You must be exhausted from all that intense research. Sit back, relax with a drink perhaps…oh wait that was the research.

  6. Have you tried St. Germain yet? It is a new favorite of mine for Spring, an elderflower liquor. Mix it up with lime, vodka, and a little seltzer. Yum!

  7. I can hardly wait for that book! I suspect it will arrive on shelves in late 2012 or early 2013.

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